Mustang or Camaro? It's the debate had by All-American muscle car fans for decades. So, which one is better? We listened to Joey Rassool from Donut Media as he revisits every incarnation of each, from the 60s to the present day to find out.
This is not a simple task. In fact, it's such a hot topic between fans of these iconic muscle cars, that it can be a dangerous undertaking. We're talking about which All-American icon is better, the Ford Mustang or the Chevrolet Camaro, spanning over six decades.
This legendary slugfest started in the 60s when Chevrolet realised they needed to compete with Ford, who was selling a cheap sportscar hand-over-fist. Vice President and general manager of Ford at the time, Lee Iacocca, had spotted an untapped market in the baby-boomers. These were youngsters who had come of age after WWII and were looking for their first car.
The Mustang was so successful that it still holds the record of most production models sold during launch. It was so popular, in fact, that showrooms had to employ extra security for months to maintain the peace. This lit a fire under many of Ford's competitors who also wanted a piece of the pie.
It took Chevy two-and-a-half years before launching the Camaro in 1967, designed with the sole purpose of slaying the Mustang. Unfazed, Ford handed their pony car over to a chap called Caroll Shelby, who delivered the first of many desirable vehicles, the Mustang GT500. Within a year, this motor was a factory option, and it won the hearts of many.
Chevy, playing catch-up once again, fired back. They offered two new 7.0-litre engines for the Camaro, one with an iron block and the other an aluminium one called the ZL1. They massively outpowered not only the Mustang but small-block Corvette's too, and, today, the 1969 Chevrolet Camaro is one of the most sought-after Chevy's ever produced.
The 70s was a tumultuous decade for motoring. Many other manufacturers were downsizing their powerplants to reduce emissions and improve fuel-efficiency, but Ford and Chevy fought on. They produced new versions of their muscle cars, with Ford introducing the Mach 1 Mustang and Chevy introducing the SS models. They were pretty evenly matched in terms of sales when the oil-crisis hit America.
Once again, Ford was on the ball. They had already started developing a smaller capacity engine to power the Mustang II, and soon, they were outselling the outgoing Camaro by two-to-one. However, Chevy offered a six-cylinder powerplant in their sportscar, which offered more power than the Mustang. By 1978, the tables had turned, and Chevy sold over 100,000 units more than the breathless Ford.
At the turn of the decade, Ford abandoned their platform for the newer Fox Body and a 5.0-litre engine. It wasn't particularly pretty to look at, but the extra horsepower made up for it. Chevy, on the other hand, did things the other way around. Their Camaro design was stunning for the time, but they shoved a four-cylinder powerplant under the hood that took 20 seconds to do the 0-60... erm... sprint.
Fortunately, by 1985, the oil-crisis started to lose its grip, and both engine displacement and horsepower rose once again. As the decade rolled on, Ford supplied special editions to the police force while Chevy saw tuners finding more power from their V8.
By the early part of the 90s, both muscle cars had new models on their showroom floors. The fourth-generation Camaro's were more powerful but still running on a platform from the late 60s, while the Mustang was all new but down on power compared to its opponent. In fact, the Mustang GT pushed out over 100hp less than the Camaro SS.
In 1993, Ford launched a new department called the Special Vehicle Team (SVT) to develop an engine to compete with Chevy's all-aluminium LS1. The SVT was dedicated to making the Mustang faster and, by 1996, had developed a much more powerful 4.6-litre V8. As the year 2000 loomed, the All-American muscle cars were trading blows once again.
Then, in 2002, due to falling sales and a tired 30-year-old platform, Chevy retired the Camaro. Ford, however, pushed forward, and in 2005, they introduced the 'new' Mustang. Their senior vice president of design, J Mays, called the look, "retro-futurism" because the vehicle had finally revisited its roots and looked like its granddaddy.
It was a hit and, with no other competition, ruled the roost for the next five years. But then, in 2008, the movie franchise, Transformers, introduced an all-new Camaro as the much-beloved character Bumblebee. This launched the new Camaro into the stratosphere a full two years before it was available to the public.
By the time the Camaro rolled off showroom floors, it had won an award from World Car Of The Year for Best Design, had a manual gearbox and sported the LS3 motor under the hood.
This pushed Ford to fight back, and they soon launched the Cayote engine, then an all-new independent rear suspension to match the Chevy. Now both muscle cars were fast in a straight line able to turn corners too.
This to and froing between engineering departments saw various special editions emerge with superchargers, larger braking systems and numerous aero kits finding their way onto both vehicles.
To this day, both manufacturers continue to trade blows. However, the question remains... which is the better All-American muscle car, the Ford Mustang or the Chevrolet Camaro? We turn to Joey Rassool from Donut Media for an overview and round-by-round scoring to find out.
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